This morning, I did see an answer to one of my prayers come to fruition (although I've known it would for some time). Months ago, when the church lost its previous worship pastor (who I think was called "Choir Director") due to some internal issues, I started raising in prayer the kind of person I thought would be ideal for the role of worship pastor. This was easy, I just raised the request to bring someone like the worship pastor at Wheaton Bible Church (but not him personally).
Well a month or so ago, I discovered that they had hired/called a worship pastor that I'd gotten a good look at since I was working the weekend he was in for his interview/audition/candidate services, who is just about a perfect answer to this request.
We have several concerns. Two are pretty big, the others are probably pretty minor. And I'm not sure which one is the bigger issue.
First, we are just not connecting to anyone at the church. We are both used to churches that have either established adult classes -- like Wheaton Bible Church's Adult Communities -- or regular short classes, or both. But this church only has small groups that meet off site and on other days of the week.
This doesn't work for us at this point in our lives. Between our work hours and Derrick's reluctance to be home by himself (which we may force him to overcome between when we get back from Montreal until school starts by leaving him alone in the mornings), we cannot easily join the same small group. Since we've always (well since before we were married, but after I moved to Wheaton in preparation for getting married) done church together or as a family, this is less than preferable. Also, when I looked over the list of small groups, I didn't see many that would look good as a small group for me alone.
Additionally, while at Wheaton Bible Church, the Technical Production Crew served as a second smaller group for me, the equivalent group at this church has been pretty much a group that shows up, does their job and leaves. We don't have any sort of meetings or events other than at worship or the sound checks before worship.
The other issue has to do with the preaching. While I think that the senior pastor is still very spirit filled, and is effective at reaching and teaching a lot of people, he just isn't reaching us. First, he has a very rambling style. This is really noticeable when seeing him deliver the same sermon three times, but can be seen even in one sermon. Often he jumps around in the sermon notes he has printed in the bulletin. Most of the time by the end of the sermon he has hit the key points, and used most or all of his examples -- both biblical and other. But it has started getting distracting.
Then, he often will be missing for several weeks. This is both because of health issues, and other commitments. But when he leaves or is not able to preach, there is no consistent fill in. These fill ins can be good, but aren't always. And, for the most part, they preach on whatever topic they choose.
When I contrast this to Wheaton Bible Church, I see a real difference. Twice when we were going there, the Senior Pastor was unable to preach regularly -- first when he had back surgery and then after his wife was diagnosed with cancer. In both cases, he both laid out most of the sermon series that were preached, and then had either other pastors at the church (most of the time) preach, or had outside speakers also preach within the series. In one memorable case, the worship pastor ended up preaching after leading worship since the senior pastor realized he couldn't preach late in the week and he'd been working with the worship pastor on the overall service, so the worship pastor was the best prepared to actually preach from the notes.
Last weekend we tried another church. This one came pretty close: the sermon was on track and a pretty good lesson, and there are adult classes (but not many during the summer). But there is a bit of a doctrinal concern with how they treat baptism. Although I grew up in a mainline (Presbyterian) church that practices infant baptism, I see adult immersion baptism as something that a Christian does as an outward testimony but is not necessary for salvation or even church membership, and Tara's beliefs are similar. But this church practices immediate baptism, and requires it for membership.
Many of the other churches I've looked at online don't seem to have any sort of adult classes on Sunday -- and I'm afraid that this model is pretty common in independent evangelical churches.
Then there was one that is fairly nearby, and may have adult classes, just not in the summer, but had a more serious doctrinal issue. In their statement of belief they explicitly state that their beliefs include a pre-tribulation rapture. Since I'm of the "Pan-" beliefs on eschatology (I believe that God will make sure it all pans out in the end -- i.e. it isn't an issue of great importance), I'm extremely reluctant to spend much time in a church that has a strong focus on a pre-tribulation rapture. Further, the statement of belief specifies "soon," which I think is both a theological error (it is not reasonable to say that the end of the end times are soon, or a long way off) and possibly a misunderstanding of the idea of The End Times, which I was taught at Wheaton Bible Church, started with the ascension of Jesus or maybe earlier (I don't exactly recall), which makes more sense to me.
While I'd probably be OK with a conservative mainline church (such as the one in Rancho Bernardo I was a member of in 1998 and 1999), I don't know if Tara would be comfortable with some of the doctrine there. And, at least the Presbyterian church nearest to us doesn't look all that conservative, and all of the pastors are women (more of an issue for Tara than me).
Of course, so far I've been mostly looking in Oceanside. I probably should expand my search (at least online) to include Carlsbad and Vista.
Of course there are a couple of churches that I'd be tempted to try except for the travel distance: The Rock Church in Point Loma and Saddleback Church in Lake Forest. But both are going to be a bit of a drive (~30-40 minutes for The Rock, and more for Saddleback). I'm also somewhat sure that both also lack any Sunday adult activities, but their size might lead to some groups that are available on Sunday.
Similarly, I'd be half tempted to go back to the Rancho Bernardo church as well, but it would be a decent drive (possibly as much as the 30-40 minutes) as well. And, there are the issue I mentioned above.
For the next three weeks, we'll be skipping church due to conflicts (Comic-Con next Sunday, and we'll be in Montreal the next two -- although we'll be at randy_smith2's service during Anticipation). I've told the worship service scheduler that I won't be available in August, so I won't have to serve any of the remaining weeks, which will give us a few more Sundays to try other churches before the next time I might have to serve, or at least let her know that I won't be serving anymore because we're looking at other churches (and hope I don't have to explain our issues).